Photo: The Canadian Press/CFL.ca
It’s a game that’s two years in the making and for Brett Lauther, the stakes are uniquely high for this summer’s Touchdown Atlantic game in Wolfville, N.S.
The Truro, N.S. product, is the kicker for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He knows that when he and his team head back to his home province for the Touchdown Atlantic game against the Toronto Argonauts on July 16, he’ll become the default ambassador of the area. He’s OK with that. The better the weekend turns out, the better it is for everyone.
“This is a big deal for me and family and friends and everything, but…I’m super pumped for the CFL to come out here,” Lauther said.
“Hopefully, it’s taking another step towards trying to get the 10th team and completing the coast-to-coast league. Then not only that, just (for) my teammates and the coaches and everyone to see a different area and all my friends and family that haven’t really got to go to a game and watch and support me on TV, I’m just really excited for everyone.”
Lauther can easily recall the challenges of growing up as an aspiring football player in a place where the game wasn’t as accessible as it is in other parts of Canada. To this day, he struggles to find a good turf field when he’s home for off-season training. Through spending the last three seasons in Saskatchewan, he’s seen the impact that the game can have on fans and their community. He’d love to see that grow in the Maritimes.
With Schooner Sports and Entertainment still looking to work its way through the financing of a stadium and the procurement of that 10th CFL franchise, Lauther wants to do everything he can to make that July weekend a success on every front possible. It would serve as him doing his part for that would-be franchise and as a thank you to those friends and family that have supported him through a football career that’s certainly been an exercise in patience and dedication.
He said once there were rumblings of the Touchdown Atlantic game being a go for this year, his phone started blowing up. He thinks he could easily have connections to up to 2,000 people that would attend the game this summer. He’s turned to family members for help with ticket requests and may turn to a greater power for hopes of expanded seating at Raymond Field, the home of the Acadia Axemen, which will expand its capacity to 10,000 fans. To Lauther, who was on hand today in Halifax for the official announcement, it’s a good problem to have.
“Anything I can point people in the right direction on and maybe be an ambassador for…it’s super exciting,” he said. “It’s just something I’m trying to embrace.”
Henoc Muamba will be on the opposite side of the field for the game, as the linebacker heads into his second season with the Toronto Argonauts and his 11th overall in the CFL. The game will mark a return to the province that he played his U SPORTS football in. Muamba suited up at St. Francis Xavier University, before going first overall in the CFL Draft in 2011.
“It’s always amazing for me to go back to the East Coast. I love the East Coast,” Muamba said.
“I loved my time there. Definitely a special time in my life, the way that I grew as a man and as a football player over there is something that I can never put a price tag on. I spoke with Coach (Gary) Waterman at St. FX and he’s looking forward to it and will hopefully make it as well.”
Muamba should have a good sense of what to expect when the game gets here, having been a part of the Montreal Alouettes team that took part in the 2019 Touchdown Atlantic Game in Moncton, N.B.
“I have a lot of love for people in the East Coast, I have a lot of love for people in that part of the country that continues to yearn for a football team out there,” Muamba said. “I think that trips like these and games like these hosted out there are only going to help and get us closer and closer to making that happen.”
After a difficult couple of years that saw the CFL cancel the 2020 season and carefully play out a reduced schedule in 2021, the idea of people from across the country coming together for a football game in such a unique part of the country seems more tantalizing than ever. It’s something that has been sorely missed across Canada.
“It’s going to be something that’s really special because especially out here, and even growing up — and I don’t mean this in a bad way — but the Maritimes, Atlantic Canada, it seems to be a few years behind everything, especially the bigger cities and where there’s more people. They were definitely a little more locked down than most areas.
“I feel like by the time (the game) comes and it’s summertime and stuff’s getting a little more normalized from what was going on, I feel like that might be almost like a kickoff to a little bit of a more normalization and a party and something that’s really fun for everyone. I think it’s just going to be a super cool event. It’s also the right step in getting a team and a stadium built out here.”
Both Lauther and Muamba are ready for everything that will come with the game and ready to show their teammates a part of the country that many will have never seen before. Lauther tells a great story about his rookie season in Hamilton in 2013, where he told some American teammates that he was from Nova Scotia and they thought he was from a European country. He’s been explaining and talking about the Maritimes for many years. This summer, he’ll finally get to show it to people.
“I’m just excited for guys that I’m a little closer with and talk to a lot more, for them just to see it and kind of experience it,” Lauther said. “Everyone up and down the roster and I think even on the Argos’ side. It’s going to be really good for the league and the province and everyone involved. I feel like it’s just a win-win across the board.”